This is just a quick language update, inspired partly by what I saw this morning outside my window – at least three seasons in one day. First it was white snow, almost appropriate for this time of the year, although highly unlikely to stick around (so to speak) for long in London, then beautiful spring, with blue skies and strong sunshine, followed by hours of autumnal misery.
On the other hand, I’ve always wanted to write about the Polish seasons as I’m a bit fed up with constant remarks, like “Oh, you went to Poland? It MUST HAVE BEEN cold!’ Er, well, last time I went it was early November and it was sunny and +16. Winters in Poland can be severe, yes, but I think the most common misconception about Poland is that it’s permanently cold, covered in 3 meters of snow and people routinely drink wódka first thing in the morning to get warm.
So, let’s get the record straight here (weather and global warming permitting):
Spring. Usually warm from April onwards, with occasional hailstorms thrown in for good measure. Chestnut trees blossoming in May are quite spectacular, but secondary school students who are about to graduate hate them as they remind them of maturity/graduation exams traditionally held in early May.
Summer. Can be boiling hot, particularly in the south (+30 is nothing surprising, really), near the mountains. Lovely by the sea (remember?) although the sea itself won’t be as warm. Majorca it ain’t, alright?
Autumn. Gloriously golden and warm, usually still nice until late October. November can be a mixed bag – warm and sunny like a couple of weeks ago, or miserable and snowy like two years ago, when my friends went to Kraków to see it in all its glory and mostly saw grey skies and sleet.
Winter. I remember really severe winters from when I was a kid. (I sound like I’m 80, but I’m not). We had days when school had to be cancelled as there was so much snow and it was so cold, they were unable to keep the building warm enough. But in recent years it’s been mixed – there were snowless, wishy-washy winters, there were a few occasions when people were taken by surprise and whole roads became impassable, villages cut off from the world and other disasters like that.
But in general it’s safe to assume that Polish seasons are not that much different from the British ones. But if you’re lucky enough to see Polish winter like in the picture above (in Polish Tatra Mountains), you’ll enjoy it.
Image © syfon used under CC licence
Since you’re already able to say ‘hi’ and ‘thank you’ in Polish, maybe you should try and introduce yourself, eh? (the audio files below may not work if you’re reading this in an RSS reader)
Nazywam się Will.
‘My name’s Will’. The simplest way to introduce yourself in Polish. Actually, hang on, there is an even simpler one:
‘I’m Will’. That’ll do in most cases. Now, asking about somebody’s name is equally easy when there’s only one person whose name you want to know:
Jak masz na imię?
‘What’s your name?’ In this case, you’ll get just this – their first name. If you want their surname say
Jak masz na nazwisko?
‘What’s your surname?’ So the basic nouns here are:
imię – name (first name)
nazwisko – surname
There’s also another way of asking for someone’s name:
Jak się nazywasz?
literally it means ‘what are you called?’ but the closest English equivalent would again be ‘What’s your name?’ In a more formal situation you’d expect the other person to tell you their first and second names in response to this question.
Now, it gets a bit trickier once you start asking about names in third person – so reffering to her, him or them. You’ll need the following pronouns:
on – he
ona – she
to – it
oni – they (all subjects are male or mixed)
one – they (female only)
So let’s try with ‘ona’ and the two versions of the question:
Jak (ona) ma na imię?
Jak (ona) się nazywa?
Please note, that the pronoun is optional, but it’s easier to use it and avoid sounding clumsy. So for example, your friend has just met someone and is telling you about her. Ask ‘Jak ona się nazywa?’. The same is you’re looking at somebody’s picture and want to know their name. The shorter version (without the pronoun) would be suitable for example if we’re not sure whether the speaker refers to a man or a woman.
Of course, subsitute ‘on’ or ‘to’ for ‘ona’ if you want to ask about ‘him’ or ‘it’.
In plural the reflexive verb (‘nazywać się’) also gets a plural form, hence:
Jak (oni/one) się nazywają?
I’ve included both versions of the pronoun to illustrate the pronunciation as the spelling might be confusing to an English speaker. But obviously use only one form at a time….
Image © Dusk via Flickr under CC licence
Kraków? Cracow? Krakow? How on earth do you spell it? (Kraków) But more importantly, how do you pronounce it? Don’t fret – that’s why you have the Polski Blog Today just a bunch of cities, starting with the more popular ones.
has become a popular tourist destination in recent years, and it’s still a nice alternative to Prague, which – although beautiful – is often overcrowded, overpriced and over the top. Definitely, one of my most favourite places on the planet.
is the capital of Poland, and for many the first and only city they see in Poland. If you don’t like it, remember it was almost cmpletely flattened during the Second World War and then rebuilt by the Soviets. Pretty it ain’t, hence it may be worth jumping on a train and going north to
The largest Polish port forms part of the so-called tri-city. A city with rich, often dramatic history, also partly destroyed during the world, but luckily beautifully rebuilt. Forms part of a so-called tri-city, a large metropolitan area with
In the southern, or actually south-western part of the country
has become a very popular tourist destination. Kraków has always been very popular, but in recent years I’ve heard quite a few stories about Wrocław and how dynamic, attractive it has become. Yet another city in Poland, which, over the centuries, has been a part of Germany, Prussia, Austria and Poland. Fantastic architecture, rich night life, great history. Its mayor Rafał Dutkiewicz featured in a BBC documentary about Poles in Britain, The Poles are Coming. He once famously visited some British cities with strong Polish communities to try to appeal to the most recent migrants and convince them to return to Wrocław.
OK, one more city worth mentioning is
traditionally a vibrant centre of trade and industry, with the oldest cathedral in Poland. Oh, and since I’m jumping all over the Polish map, I need to mention one more northern city,
Just because I thought you’d love all the consonants in the name
I haven’t mentioned here many other important Polish cities, so look out for more consonant-packed names soon!
Warszawa church and Kraków by smif via Flickr used under CC licence
Wrocław by Mike PD via Flickr used under CC licence
I remember when I was a kid and my mom made smalec (basically pork drippings – LARD, in other words) I used to run a mile. I hated this stuff – nothing but pig’s fat with pepper, some onion and – if you’re lucky – some herbs.
Nowadays, when you go to a restaurant in Poland, it’s almost a custom to be served fresh country bread on a wooden chopping board with, yes, that’s right, smalec. And all that before you even managed to look at the menu properly.
I remember it from a restaurant in Kraków called Chłopskie Jadło (Peasant Food) in the late 1990s. It was something new – an old favourite, reinvented. (And so was the place – all of a sudden it was cool to sit in a dark restaurant which looked like a mountain peasant’s room, with wooden floors and walls, big fireplace and freshly baked bread; nowadays Chłopskie Jadło is a chain and has had hundreds of more or less successful clones).
So up until then smalec was in my mind something really uncool. But not any more. I like it now, but you have to be careful with this stuff. Not just because it’s artery-clogging saturated fat. But because it’s addictive. Like many unhealthy kinds of food – chips, crisps, deep-fried Mars bars… Er, ok, went a bit too far there. It’s addictive and – once you’ve convinced yourself that you won’t die on the spot after a single slice – you simply want more and more. And by the time your main course arrives, you’re full.
I’m quite realistic and I know posting a recipe for smalec on here is a bit counterproductive, so I won’t do it. But next time you’re near that stuff, try it! And let me know what you thought.
Image © orangejon via Flickr used under CC licence
Had a bit of a long break with my Polish lessons, but just got back from Greece (lovely and sunny Cycladic Islands) and realised again how important it is to know just a few basic phrases. You don’t need to be fluent, you don’t need to shine, but just make the effort and learn a few phrases – and everyone will be so much more helpful.
Hence I will carry on with the most basic phrases before even attempting anything more complex. Today it’s time for those polite phrases, like ‘please’ and ‘thank you’.
The first phrase is
which is the equivalent of ‘please’. But ‘Proszę’ is often also used to say ‘here you are’ when presenting someone with something. So don’t roll your eyes when a Polish waitress brings you your coffee and says ‘Please’ instead of ‘There you go’. She’s not asking for anything. (BTW, you will also hear ‘proszę’ when you knock at somebody’s door – in such situation ‘proszę’ means ‘come in’.)
Talking about asking for coffee, the word ‘Proszę’ has also a longer form, ‘Poproszę’. It’s a slightly more polite way of asking for something and unlike ‘proszę’ it doesn’t work on its own, hence you can say:
‘(Can I have) some coffee, please?’ Or:
Poproszę herbatę z cytryną
‘(Can I have) tea with lemon, please?’ Yes, we do prefer it with lemon. Nothing wrong with milky tea, but lemon is the default choice in many Polish places.
But I’m digressing. So what do you say once our lemon tea is there?
‘Thank you’. If you want to emphasise your ‘thankyou’, go for:
‘Thank you very much’. In a more informal situation, go for:
‘Thanks’ Now, the last phrase has a few variations, all rather colloquial, but probably the most popular one is:
‘Thanks a lot!’
It might be worth mentioning here that all those phrases are only useful if you speak for yourself, if there is more than one person, we’d need to use some plural forms in certain cases, but don’t worry about that now. We’ll cross that bridge.
As promised in my previous polish your Polish post, time now to learn how to say ‘Goodbye’ in Polish.
The most popular phrase is probably
which is the equivalent of ‘Goodbye’. This is a bit formal, but also one of the most common phrases, apart from
which is the same as the word for ‘Hi’ I introduced in the very first post on this blog. ‘Cześć’ used to say ‘Bye’ is obviously very informal, and is probably only used among friends and/or relatives, but probably not in, say, a Polish bank.
Another informal alternative is
“See ya!’ Should you wish to use a closer equivalent of ‘See you later’ you can always say:
which probably closer to the initial phrase ‘Do widzenia’. Now, there’s also a whole plethora of informal and slang phrases for ‘Goodbye’. From
(a variation of ‘Narazie’)
(a diminutive of ‘buzia’ – mouth or face; it’s a shorter form of and comes from the phrase ‘dać buzi’ – ‘to give a kiss'; probably not one for the red-bloodied males among you, I’d say)
to the shortest and sweetest of them all:
(often doubled, as in ‘Pa, pa!’). Say it to your gradma, say it to your girlfriend, say it to your close friend. Whenever you do you indicate that you care for them. Awwww.
Image: © Raka via Flickr, used under CC licence